Boys are natural collectors. They often load their pockets with such things as string, tin foil, rusty bolts, rocks, and dead beetles. During the late summer and early fall of 1936, the prized item was the brown tin Landon-for-President button which was set against a yellow felt background in imitation of the Kansas sunflower. Boys would beg their parents and pester party workers to get supplies of these buttons. In the author's home town, Chicago, on street corners or in vacant lots, wherever boys met, the free market trading rate was two, sometimes three Roosevelt buttons for one Landon sunflower. In October one Republican leader wrote Landon's headquarters to predict victory in Chicago for the Kansas governor. Requests there for Landon buttons, he reported, far exceeded those for Roosevelt buttons. The governor's aides could smile sadly. Buttons, however shiny, were not votes. Chicago, however much its children liked the sunflower buttons, was not Republican. Landon lost Chicago, the state of Illinois, and, in fact, forty-six of the forty-eight states.
Alf Landon is best remembered for that trouncing, but there is more to him, and to his place in American history. No man is nominated for President without a record, and no man, once he has run this race, can retire from public life. Landon, to be sure, had done the extraordinary during the early New Deal days: he was the only Republican governor to have won reelection in 1934, and he had balanced his state's budget. These feats, and a shrewd publicity campaign, led to his nomination. But most Republicans and Democrats did not know that Landon had twice bolted his party--the only politician in American history to do this and nevertheless receive a major-party presidential nomination. He had been an active opponent of the Ku Klux Klan, a rebel who had fought the major oil companies and the utility interests, a forceful advocate of conservation, and a fairly successful reform governor (indeed, one who brought a new deal to Kansas while Franklin Roosevelt was bringing the New Deal to the nation).
After his nomination, in June, 1936, Landon compiled another record. He tried to reconstruct his party, into a moderate rather than a